Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Disability?

I'm doing well at my new job. I'm getting used to the documentation requirements and the layout of the different buildings. My patients, of course, are wonderful. Primarily I work in little towns surrounding my city. They are all farming communities, so most of my patients are farmers. They're used to working hard and are generally willing to do what I suggest. I'm working with some lovely women with wonderful personalities right now. It's fun.

My coworkers have also been great so far. Maybe physical and occupational therapists are just cool people! It's always nice when I enjoy the people with whom I work. I've worked three, four hour days the past two weeks. It doesn't sound like much, but it's worn me out, nonetheless. I hope and expect that will get better soon. Next week I'm bumping up to three, six hour days.

As a new employee, I've had to fill out tons of paperwork. That's typical, so I was prepared for it. However, one of the forms I had to fill out led to this post. The questionnaire asked, point-blank, if I had a disability. I could answer "Yes," "No," or "Prefer Not to Answer." The question stopped me in my tracks.

On the one hand, I do have a disability. On the other hand, disability questions typically refer to something other than mental illness. I was uncomfortable with the question. I don't feel comfortable revealing my mental illness unless it gets in the way of my job duties. If I don't have a relapse, my illness doesn't get in the way. So should I say yes or no? What would you say?

I ended up picking, "Prefer not to answer," as my option. I felt like I'd be lying if I said no. But I didn't want the probing follow-up questions a yes answer would likely have initiated. And really, I'm not sure it's any of their business unless I can't perform my duties. But then again, maybe telling them up front would make things easier if I do need accommodations down the road. I just don't know. And doesn't preferring not to answer say something, too? Like I've got something to hide...

I'd be interested to hear what many of you think. Have any of you had to answer this question? What did you say? And if you haven't had to answer it, how do you think you would? Why? I didn't necessarily like my answer, but it was the best choice, I thought, of the three options I had. So that's what I picked. How about you?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Another tough one

I had another disappointing day running today. If the race had only been 15 miles, it would have been a great day. Unfortunately, marathons are 26.2 miles long, and it was those last 11.2 miles that really got me. I felt really good through the half marathon mark. I was running strong, averaging 8 minutes, 35 seconds per mile. Then, out of the blue, the wheels started coming off. And they came off quickly. By 15 miles, I was walking. I could not have been more frustrated.

The rest of the race was tough. I seriously considered dropping out, as I had planned, around 20 miles, but my brother was here cheering for me, which was great, so I kept going. The weather may have had something to do with my quick drop off. The temperatures were in the mid to high 70's, and there was not a cloud in the sky. I stripped out of my shirt, running in only my shorts and a sports bra, but it still got pretty warm out there.

I ended up finishing in 4:04:25. So that's two 4+ hour marathons in a row. I'm now a little worried about Grandmas coming up in June. Marathoning is a lot more fun when I feel relatively good throughout, or even if I feel good until later in the race, but these early descents into fatigue make for really long, not so joyful days. I'd like to get back to having a little more fun, and of course, I'd love to re-qualify for Boston in the process.

The only difference between the last two marathons and Grandmas last year, when I ran a personal best 3:34:58, is weight training. I consistently weight trained last winter and spring. But this year, after my depression relapse, and my return to running in January, I've spent most of my time on the road and little time in the weight room. Over the past few weeks, I've started to remedy that, but I obviously need to do more. I don't think I'll be able to fix the problem in the next month, but hopefully by the Chicago Marathon in October, I'll have stronger, more resilient legs. That's the plan.

It's always nice to run this marathon, as I hear my name cheered from the sidelines and run with familiar faces throughout. In that respect, this year was no exception. And as I stated, it was great to have my younger brother here cheering. He was a great support and an active spectator. I think he saw me 5 or 6 times. That was really nice.

I'm glad I'm coming out of this race with an action plan. I function much better with a plan. And it helps me be more okay with today. It was hot. My legs aren't in their best shape. With a little work, and perhaps, hopefully, with a cooler day, I know I can do better. I'm looking forward to the opportunity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The next one

I've decided I'm going to go ahead and run my local marathon this Sunday. My running has been going fairly well. I think I'm fully recovered from Boston. And I'm feeling good. Why not run it? I'm hoping to run better, and feel better, than I ran and felt in Boston, but I also don't want to over do it. I'm focusing on having a good effort at Grandmas Marathon in June, so I don't want to run so hard I jeopardize that. I'd like to use this as another long training run. At the same time, I know myself, and if I'm feeling good on Sunday, I'll likely go for it despite my best laid plans. It will be an adventure either way. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thanking My Supporters

It was a few nights ago. I was speaking for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). As many of you know, I do this occasionally. I tell my story. I retrace my journey with depression to diverse groups of people, from junior high school classes, to church organizations, to mental health providers, and in the process attempt to break down some of the stigma surrounding mental illness. It's almost always a rewarding, uplifting experience. I get as much or more positive vibes from telling my story as others do from hearing it. I enjoy doing it.

Speaking to interested groups almost always makes me feel a belly full of gratitude. This was especially true the other night, as one of the audience members was a retired psychiatric nurse with whom I had many interactions over the years. She commented that it was nice to see me. She was enjoying seeing me there, recovered. What I wanted to tell her was it was just as nice for me to see her. It was great to be seen in recovery mode rather than while in the throes of my illness, which is, of course, when she had seen me in the past. Does that make sense?

And seeing her filled me with gratitude for all of the mental health providers I've seen over the past 13 years. There are so many providers who've made a major impact on me, yet they'll never know. Driving home, I had the urge to stand on a roof top and yell, "Thank You," at the top of my lungs! I wanted to invite those with whom I'd connected to my home to see me, as I am today, living well. I wanted to show them their work with me made a difference. It mattered. And I hadn't forgotten.

It's too bad. Most providers with whom I've connected will never know where I ended up. They have no idea what happens to most of their patients. It's only through chance meetings like the one I just had that we get to show off our healthy selves. And say thanks.

So that's what I did. I said thanks, to those I could, that very night. I sent out some gratitude e-mails. And I plan to say thank you, out loud, to those I can the next time I see them. My doctor, therapist, social worker...they've all heard it before, but I don't think I can thank them enough. I wouldn't be alive today without them.

I also wouldn't be alive today without the nurses at Generose 3W, Mayo Clinic, so this post will have to suffice. Unfortunately, most will never see it. And those nurses are the ones I'd especially like to invite over, to "show off" how well I am today, as a direct result of the care they gave me. Those nurses saw me at my most ill, and they cared for me when I could not care for myself, with respect, compassion, and love. I am lucky to have had access to them and to their inpatient unit.

I am a lucky woman today. I feel well. And I feel grateful for feeling well. I didn't get here by myself. I've had lots of help. It's important for me to remember that. It takes a village. I'm so thankful for all of my fellow villagers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another good thing

I'm having a good week. On top of the blog award and the pay-it-forward breakfast gift, I had another good thing happen to me this week. Yesterday I was hired by another therapy company. I will be an on-call therapist at two of their local rehabilitation facilities. The reason I applied and accepted the position, which is in addition to the two other on-call positions I already have, is because they have regular hours for me at both of their facilities. Finally, I'll be able to get back to somewhat consistent work, and I'll be able to see if I can handle working part-time hours.

I'm not sure I've ever totally believed in the maxim, "When one door closes, another door opens," but that's exactly what happened this time. I lost my part-time position as a result of my recent depression relapse, and my employer hasn't had any on-call hours for me to work since March. As a result, I've been under a bit of financial pressure and worried about covering my bills. And along comes a better opportunity. A door closed, but another one opened. I'm lucky. And I'm very grateful. I start Monday.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Two neat things


I found out this morning that Healthline has again selected my blog as one of the top depression blogs of 2014. Wow. I think this is the sixth year I've been selected. That's pretty cool. I'm honored and humbled again. A blog I started basically for myself, which I hoped a couple of other people might see and glean something positive from, has become something larger, and longer lasting, than I ever imagined. Now when I write, I do so with the understanding that a few of you out there are not only reading but counting on me to keep moving forward. In that way, this blog helps me more than you know. I cannot give up. I must keep up the fight. And by continuing to fight, I hope I might inspire at least one of you to keep fighting, too. We cannot let depression win.

Shortly after receiving the news about my blog, I went out to breakfast with my mom and step-father. They are back in the north land after spending all winter in the southern states. We went out to one of our usual, local establishments. We're not big spenders, but we had plenty of food and coffee to fill our bellies. After lingering for awhile, chatting, my step-father took the check to the host to pay our bill. He returned two minutes later, confused look on his face, still holding our bill and his credit card. My mom inquired, "What's the matter?" My step-dad stammered, "He wouldn't take my money." Incredulous, my mom and I said in unison, "What do you mean?" Still stuttering and looking shell-shocked, my step-dad said, "The host said someone had already paid our bill."

I've heard of this happening. People paying for the groceries of the person in line behind them or the gas in another person's car... I've heard about this. Never in a million years did I think it would happen to me! And based on my step-dad's utterly shocked and confused demeanor, neither did he! My parents and I sat there in stunned silence, trying to figure out exactly what had just happened, when I finally just said, "Wow," and we got up and walked out. This gesture, by a totally anonymous stranger, was an incredible gesture. It made our day! We haven't stopped talking about it yet. We decided we will need to pay the gesture forward in the near future, and I can't wait until we do that.

It's been an interesting, fruitful day. I've been the recipient of two generous and humbling gestures. My faith in humanity has been propped up today. I can't wait to see what the rest of the day brings.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The daily report

The sore throat and aches I was experiencing on Monday have strangely hung around this week. It's weird. I feel better overall. I have more energy for running and work, but I have also been having attacks of fatigue that knock me flat. And every time I think my throat is no longer sore, I feel soreness. I don't remember having any soreness when I got up this morning, but my right tonsil is swollen and sore now. It's weird.

I saw my psychiatrist today. We talked about the fatigue, but she's hesitant to change any medications. I understand that, and I agree with that. Neither of us want me to go through another depressive episode anytime soon. We also talked about work restrictions. I've been handling the 4-hour shifts pretty well, so I'm going to begin working 6-hour shifts now. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work more.

I signed up for my local marathon yesterday. My 20-miler went well over the weekend, and my runs this week have been good, so I figured, why not? I'm going to use it as a training run for Grandmas Marathon in June. The 20-mile mark is just down the street from my home, so if things aren't going well, I can always walk off the course and come home. If I'm doing okay, I'll go ahead and finish. The race is Memorial Day Weekend, so I'm officially tapering again. I'm hoping for good weather and a good run.

I don't have anything else going on right now, and that's a good thing. Quiet and drama-free is exactly how I want to live. I so appreciate when my mood is good and life is moving along smoothly. I'm living gratefully today.

Monday, May 5, 2014

a little sick

The fatigue I wrote of in my last post began to make sense when I awoke with the inkling of a sore throat yesterday. I was scheduled to run 20 miles with my friend, Therese, and I felt well enough so we did go. In fact, after running 20 miles, I actually felt better. My throat was no longer sore. I was hopeful it was all going to blow over.

Unfortunately, today I awoke in a heap of hurt. My throat was sore again. My body was tired, and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I ended up cancelling an appointment and going back to bed. I slept, and slept, and slept. I finally got up around noon, and now I feel better again. I think I may have just a bit of a virus trying to take hold, but so far I seem to be fighting it.

I went to an interview this afternoon. It looks like I'm going to be picking up some regular, on-call hours with another company soon. I may begin as early as this week. I'm not thrilled about having to drive 30-45 minutes to get to the facility, but I am excited to get back to something resembling a regular schedule. At least that's what they're promising. We'll see how it goes.

My mood continues to be good. I'm feeling well. I don't want to get sick, because that sometimes causes my mood to drop. I'll keep piling on the vitamin C, resting, and doing what I can to fight this potential virus off. But for now, I'm feeling good, and I'm stable, and my running is going well, and I'm getting back to work, and I have a lot for which to be grateful. Things are going well. I'm happy about that.

Friday, May 2, 2014

a little tired

This week I got back to my training, full force, which is the only way I know, and I picked up a few shifts at work, with another scheduled for tomorrow, and I'm pooped! Too much? Maybe. Maybe I didn't give myself enough rest time after the marathon. Maybe I picked up the training too soon after such a long, tough day on the road in Boston. Maybe working still taxes my brain more than I realize. Maybe it's just my usual fatigue, the constant reminder of my depression, rearing its ugly head. Maybe the fact that it's been raining and cold for 6 consecutive days has caused me to crack. Maybe, maybe, maybe...

I could probably think of several more potential reasons for my current fatigue, but the reality is I'm tired. My body is tired. My brain is tired. I'm having trouble motivating to do anything beyond my absolutely required activities. And absolutely required activities have been reduced to running and working. When not engaged in one of those two activities, I'm collapsed on the sofa snoozing. It's not pretty. It's not what I'd like. But right now, it's the best I can do.

I'm hoping the extra rest is what I need to get going again. I'm allowing myself to rest, and trying not to feel guilty about it. I'm doing what I can in other areas as well. I altered my scheduled run yesterday. I ran fewer intervals than suggested. I had to. My body said so. I had contemplated asking my doctor to increase my allowable work hours, but I think I'll hold off on that request for now. Apparently, I still need the restrictions. I'm sitting under my S.A.D. light every morning in order to combat this awful stretch of weather. Supposedly, the sun is due to come out tomorrow. I certainly hope so.

Until the sun shines again. Until my head and body rejuvenate. Until I can find the energy to live more completely, I'm afraid I'll have to be content with my tiny, focused world right now. I've been through periods of fatigue before. They've always been relieved. I've always made it through, and I know I'll make it through again. I'm just a little tired right now. It's okay. I'll do what I can. I'll wait it out. It will get better. I'm certain of that.



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